U.S. Supreme Court Rules Unanimously against Federal Government in Water Case

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous ruling against the federal government in Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. Inc. Earlier this year, Montana and 21 other states filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the defendants challenging the federal government’s actions.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox released the following statement:

“I am pleased to have helped secure this important victory for Montana. In its unanimous ruling against the federal government, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the rights of those impacted by onerous federal water regulations to challenge them in court without having to first incur potentially ruinous civil penalties or permitting costs. This ruling is great news for Montanans, who rely so heavily upon agriculture, mining, and other productive enterprises. I hope this ruling also serves as a signal of what may come when our challenge to the ‘Waters of the U.S.’ regulation comes before the Supreme Court.”

Key points from Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion:

“[T]he [Clean Water] Act’s reach is ‘notoriously unclear’ and the consequences to landowners even for inadvertent violations can be crushing.”

“The [Clean Water] Act, especially without the [Jurisdictional Determination] procedure were the Government permitted to foreclose it, continues to raisetroubling questions regarding the Government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the Nation.”